Members of the APA also argued that the extreme racism is a mental illness claim lacked hard science. That objection was weak, says Poussaint, because many mental health diagnoses listed in the DSM don’t have a solid scientific premise, including personality disorders. Some APA members said classifying extreme racism as an illness would excuse terrible beliefs and reprehensible behavior.

But Poussaint wasn’t interested in excusing or stigmatizing behavior; he wanted to help people he believed were sick. Inclusion in the DSM, he insisted, could allow individuals suffering from extreme racism to access services such as state-mandated psychiatric counseling, and therefore benefit society because, “it could protect people they might otherwise attack.”